SIAM News Blog

Honoring William A. Massey

In honor of Black History Month, SIAM is spotlighting Black mathematicians throughout February. William A. Massey is the Edwin S. Wilsey Professor in the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE) at Princeton University. He is an inaugural fellow of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), a fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), and has been a visiting member of the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Research Focus

Massey's research interests include queueing theory, dynamical systems, and stochastic networks, all inspired by applications to communication systems and resource sharing services. His innovation to the field of queueing systems is to study their transient evolution with time-varying rates by using stochastic asymptotic methods. Classical queueing theoretic techniques give engineers a mathematical language to design efficient communication systems. Today, these techniques extend to designing the types of efficient resource-sharing services found in healthcare and transportation applications. He has over 65 publications in these fields. He has also given talks and helped organize sessions at past SIAM Conferences. This includes a plenary speaker presentation on queueing theory and dynamical systems at the SIAM Conference on Applications of Dynamical Systems.

Education and Awards

After growing up in St. Louis, Missouri and graduating from University City High School in 1973, Massey received his Princeton University A.B. mathematics degree in 1977 (Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and Sigma Xi). In 1981, he received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Stanford University. 

His Stanford University Ph.D. was funded by the Bell Laboratories Cooperative Research Fellowship Program (CRFP) for Minorities. His Ph.D. dissertation advisor was the former SIAM Vice-President Joseph B. Keller and his CRFP Bell Labs mentor was another former SIAM Vice-President, James McKenna. He was then hired by McKenna at Bell Labs in 1981 and worked for 20 years as a member of technical staff in their Mathematical Sciences Research Center before joining the Princeton faculty in 2001. This made him the first Black undergraduate alumnus of Princeton University to return as a full professor there. His first Ph.D. student, Robert C. Hampshire, became the first Black Princeton ORFE Ph.D. student in 2007. This year, Hampshire was appointed principal deputy assistant secretary for research and technology for the United States Transportation Department by the Biden Administration.

Recent Happenings

For 25 years, Massey has organized the annual Conference for African American Researchers in the Mathematical Sciences (CAARMS). He has also been recognized for his minority outreach activities with awards including the Blackwell-Tapia Prize and the Princeton University Martin Luther King Journey Award. He has a YouTube video of a TEDx lecture titled “Creating More Black Scientists is Easy!” 

As a professor, Massey has personally supervised the dissertations of six Ph.D. in the mathematical sciences. Moreover, last year he mentored and helped to nominate successfully, a former student of his queueing theory class to become the Princeton valedictorian for the class of 2020. The student was undergraduate ORFE major Nicholas André G. Johnson and this achievement made him the first Black valedictorian in the 274 year history of Princeton University.

Thank you, Dr. Massey, for your contributions to the mathematical sciences and the work you have done to encourage others to pursue a career in this field!

blog comments powered by Disqus